tv Tavis Smiley PBS September 8, 2010 12:00am-12:30am PDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. when the obama administration reached a deal with black farmers to compensate them for decades of discrimination, the hope was the money would be a much-needed boost for the struggling farmers. they had been forcing them to take their fight directly to the american people. so tonight, a conversation with the head of the national black farmers association, john boyd, jr.. also, best-selling author andrew ross sorkin. in addition to his article in "the new york times," he has his book, "too big to fail," and the
passing of the civil rights person. we are glad you are joining us. and we are remembering jefferson thomas, all coming up. et >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference, you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment, one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television]
tavis: john boyd, jr. is president of the national black farmers' association. he held a press conference to highlight the failure of the congress to approve a settlement. he joins us tonight from new york. good to have you. >> good to be here, and i want to thank you for being involved with the black farmers and continuing to raise the issue. tavis: it is my pleasure, and i wanted to have you on tonight because after years of dealing with this, all that needs to happen is for congress, when they come back from labor day recess, to vote on what has already been agreed to. they simply need to have the courage to cast a vote for a settlement that has already been reached when i first started my
national television career back in 1996, i had you on my television show then talking about this issue. this is now 2010, and we are still trying to get a settlement for african american farmers let me start by asking for you to give the backstory on what this billion dollars settlement is about and why we were talking about this in 2010. why? >> we had the same issues in 1996 when we had 50 black farmers who came to washington. that same night, we were on this show, talking about the discrimination at the united states department of agriculture. the land laws at the turn of the century, we dunsmore leanne, and we're down to less than -- we have and more land. ed more land.
black farmers receive only $200 for what others received over $1 million. 387 days processing time for their loan application, less than 30 days for a white loan application, and black farmers were denied loan applications in the south at the usda. that brought us to fighting lawsuits before we were victorious in washington, d.c., in 1996, and that lawsuit was settled by a decree in 1999, ñwhere black farmers were supposed to receive $50,000 per farmer, nearly 14,000 black farmers victorious, 9000 black farmers denied the opportunity to take part in the lawsuit, and in 1981, the reagan administration closed the office
of civil rights at the usda, and it did not reopen, tavis, until the clinton administration, and that gave us the lawsuit. they had to file a lawsuit between 1981 and 1996, and based on the fact that the civil rights office was closed, 80,000 black farmers missed the filing deadline. there was never notification by the usda to notify the black farmers about the settlement, and that pretty much brings us up to where we are today, and we lobbied congress to allow those 80,000 black congress to have their cases heard based on its merits. that bill passed in 2008. and here we are, in the year 2010, still looking for those cases to be heard based on its merits, tavis and, tavis, i have been in despite 26 years, and there was also discrimination at
the united states department of agriculture. i am a fourth generation farmer, and i can tell you that the usda has not been a friend to our farmers. tavis: the department of agriculture you are talking about is where we had this nonsense a few weeks ago, yes? >> absolutely, and a black farmers have been raising the issue of discrimination, and when that came up, i asked about how this lady could be fired for helping a white farmer, wrotande have 80,000 black farmers. no one has been fired for the active discrimination, and that is what i am talking about here. not a double standard but a triple standard when it comes to justice and fairness for black farmers at the united states department of agriculture and the way that they treat white farmers, when the process and get loans on time and take part in the u.s. farm subsidy
program, and black farmers continue to finish last, and we have been fighting to change that at the usda for a very long time. tavis: so what is in front of congress? what is in front of them to vote on, and what have they not voted on it as of yet? why have they not voted on it? >> it did pass at two separate times in the house, but we have had just a very, very difficult time in the senate, where the bill has failed seven times. it has been attached to all types of moving bills, and we had two unanimous consent bills that failed twice, and it is a divided house right now in the senate, and we need for the senate to stop playing politics with the lives of black farmers. tavis, these farmers are dying.
that is the story here. i am actually going to more funerals and delivering eulogies. last week, a farmer in virginia. these farmers are dying. they have to die without receiving their settlement, but the senate needs to ask when they come back into session on september 13 and give us a real cloture vote for the black farmers, where we can get the votes so that black farmers can get their settlement. tavis: what has the obama administration said or done about this? >> i would like to see the administration do a little more to help the black farmers, by urging harry reid, and the majority to work together to get a bill out of the senate for the black farmers. a few weeks ago, there was a deal with senator blanche lincoln, where that group of farmers, and disaster payments,
the administration put an administrative deal on the table for $1.50 million, and the black farmers went home for it -- with nothing. i would like to see the administration reach out to was an awful russ and administrative deal, the way they did that corporate farmers and the large scale white farmers before they went to recess. tavis: what is the response as to why they are not doing that? let me ask you first, what are they saying? >> we went to the administration and asked for meetings, to have discussions about this, and i have not had the opportunity to meet with the president, and i have sought that for a very long time, and i hope that after they come back into session, i will be able to sit down with the president and find out what the next steps are to get this for the black farmers. this is one time when black folks actually have done everything right. we have a settlement agreement.
we have vindication in the courts, where korea a judgment against the united states department of agriculture -- where we have a judgment. we have done everything right, and we should not be asked to wait another day longer. the senate needs to act, and the administration needs to mean just a little bit harder on the senate to get that bill out of the senate for black farmers and not put us in bills where they know there is not a snowball's chance of actually getting something done. i interested in the cloture vote before the end of the month of september -- i am interested in that. this stuff has been going on too long. this has been going on too long, and if this fails, it is not just a feel therefore the black farmers, it is a failure for black people of this country -- it is not just a failure for the black farmers.
it looks like the last persons in this country that can get justice. to me, something is wrong. tavis: to me, this is not about black or white. this is about what or right. -- wrong or right. what can the american people do to help you in this instance? >> right now, they can call their senators and ask them to caspass the black farmers bill. here is an opportunity for america to do that. i do want to put a plug in for the of the lawsuits that are out there, the native american indian lawsuits that are moving through congress -- the other lawsuits that are out there. there is a woman's case. i would like to see closure for all of those cases, and i do
think that i want merit for all of those cases, but what happened to the black farmers in this country is nothing less than a national disgrace, and it has been under the radar screen, so to speak, of national media, so i am hoping that the recent events and what we're trying to do to ways awareness -- raise awareness -- it has just taken too long. tavis: as i mentioned earlier in this program, i talked to john a that justicee 1960's, delayed is justice denied. john boyd, thank you. >> and thank you for continuing to raise the plight of black farmers. tavis: my pleasure.
coming up, the best-selling author andrew ross sorkin. stay with us. andrew ross sorkin is a columnist with "the new york times," whose book is out in paperback. it is called "too big to fail," about saving the financial system and themselves on wall street. good to have you back, sir. >> thank you for having me, tavis. tavis: of course, we all know that the president tomorrow is giving a speech. given what he had to say just days ago, yesterday, in fact, in milwaukee, what do we expect the president to say tomorrow? >> i think he is going to lay out a plan around how to spur business investment, how do we
gain the economy's story back again, and he is going to be talking about infrastructure, how to build railroads, have jobs where people can get back to work, in the middle of america, that is what this is going to be about. he is also going to be talking about are indeed, research and development, a tax credit that is going to be made available -- but talking about are in d -- r&d. i think everyone will agree in the last several months, confidence is something he has lost. tavis: there is the famous
shakespeare question, "what is in a name?" >> it is not just throwing money at the problem. it is doing it in a much more conservative approach. it is, no doubt, a stimulus package, if you will, just focused on something a little bit different. tavis: it might be cloaked as something different, but i do not think republicans are going to go for it that easily. >> i do not think they will either. i think they will say it is too little, too late. it is hard for republicans to look at tax cuts or tax credits for research and development or infrastructure spending and say, is this really the wrong thing for america? i think you are going to see that over and over again, but i also think in terms of the political calculus, you will see the democrats coming back in october and saying, "look, these republicans are voting against
tax cuts? " i think it will be very interesting in the next few weeks. tavis: very interesting, but ultimately, is this too little, too late? " what can be done to cause an uptick for the democrats? >> i have to agree but you. i think it probably is too little, too late. all these measures over the long term, if you can see out across the horizon, there are very important for our country, very important for our economy, very important for jobs korea would have an impact by the time people get to the voting register? absolutely not -- very important for jobs. would it have an impact by the time people get to the voting register? absolutely not. tavis: when the administration says "shovel ready projects,"
that is what was said before. if i am a republican, and the obama plan is not working, i have seen this before. >> they are going to say that. they are going to say it, and you will hear it over and over and over again. i think right now, they really are more surgical. right now, over time, you may not get the jobs immediately, and, by the way, some of these infrastructure projects will take an extraordinary amount of time, even in the planning projects, so you will not get the jobs immediately, but over time, they will stimulate the economy, but we will not feel the effects for another 12 months, 18 months out. tavis: if i happen to be an obama supporter, and obama in fees he is, i see him doing everything he can. -- an obama supporter, an obama
enthusiast. the poll indicates they are the ones who could take over in november. what do you make of that? >> that is going to be the political dynamic that we have coming up here, which is to say, obama, by the way, was dealt a very bad hand. let's just stipulate that from the beginning. tavis: sure. >> the question is, what do you do with the hand? he did not play it as well as he could have, but at the same time, we have not heard of a meaningful plan from the republicans. the question is, can they win on that? at the moment, given the state of the economy, given that what americans look in their wallet, there is less money there, it does not matter if they are the party of no or the party of yes. they are a different party, a different choice, and i think what you keep hearing is that people want a different choice,
and that is the result of the economic situation we're in right now. tavis: with the poll was -- >> i say it is all about the wallet. you can talk about this all summer, mistake after mistake, whether it is the mosque, whether it is b.p., i do not think that is the issue. i think it is fundamentally the economy, looking at your neighbor and saying, "he does not have a job," looking at your wallet and saying, "i do not have as much money as i used to." tavis: i saw a headline about even wall street abandoning obama. i thought, he fought to bail them out. how dare they turn on the president, andrew? >> wall street has never been a fan of democrats, but wall street has been a fan of obama. many of them voted for him and
raised an enormous amount of money for him, and a lot of them feel burned out. it is less around a policy. it is less around that they are going after their tax money or going after the bonuses. i am not sure that is the issue. it is their rhetoric around business. it is the villain is asian, that so many wall street folks think, i bought into the sky, and he is doing a job on me " -- it is civilianization -- pavillion -- ization, that so many wall street folks think, i bought into this guy. tavis: he gave us money. they cannot see it that way? >> they can see it, but i do not think they appreciate it. tavis: oh, poor babies.
they cannot appreciate it. back to your book, "too big to fail," now out in a paper boat. we are approaching the anniversary. what do you say almost two years later? >> it has been a long two years, and i always thought wall street would be a very different place. not just two years later. i thought one year later. the ethos, the sense that greed is good, and i know the "wall street" second movie is coming out. i am not sure we are going to have another crisis in the next couple of years, but down the
road, i can see this happening all over again. you're starting to see wall street putting more and more debt on top of the problem. that is what frightens me the most korea by the way, this idea of too big to fail used to be about financial institutions. now, we are talking about entire countries, and there are states, like california. this topic of too big to fail is much larger. tavis: all of the money being made in the financial industry, how do they read that? >> i think they see it as something that has gone completely right -- awry. they have got all of the money in their pockets, and i have none in mind. i do not think we are going to be able to fix in any time soon. the feeling that so many people have around wall street, around
this. finance should serve an important purpose in this country, and yet, finance and banking turned into a giant casino, and so many people now see it as the casino and not be bad for an engine of the economy that it is supposed to be. -- and not the back room engine of the economy that is supposed to be. tavis: i only have a little time left. with 30 seconds to go, the debate is going on now about the consumer regulation department, this new department being created, the politics around that. is she going to get the job? it was her idea, after all. >> i will gamble that she will. i think obama will be in a tough spot if obama does not give her the job, in part because wall street definitely does not want her to have it. i think the message to pick
anyone else might be the wrong one at this time. tavis: we will see. the book out in paperback. "the new york times" best- selling author andrew ross sorkin. >> my pleasure. tavis: coming up, the little rock 9 civil-rights activist passing. >> i was proud to host the debates designed exclusively for people of color. in our second debate in baltimore, it was also with great pride that we had an audience that night two faint people of the little rock 9, including jefferson thomas. he and eight fellow people defied the governor of arkansas, courageously and rolling in the central high school. regent -- courageously enrolling
in the central high school. bill clinton had this to say yesterday. america is stronger and a more tolerant nation because of the sacrifices he made. jefferson thomas died of cancer on sunday at the age of 67. that is our show tonight. good night from los angeles, and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. : hi, i am tavis
smiley. join us next time for andrew agassi. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference, you help us all live better. tavis smiley. tavis and nationwide insurance, working to improve financial literacy and the economic empowerment that comes with it. one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. kcet public television] captioned by the --www.ncicap.org- >> be more.